The recently held 2018 FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) offered a glimpse into the future through the eyes of high school students. Referred to as “the ultimate sport for the mind,” FRC challenges high school students to build and program industrial-sized robots that then participate in field games against competitors. The competition fosters science, technology, engineering and mathematics experience and skill development through design and programming. Valuable soft-skills are also cultivated through problem-solving, leadership, fundraising and teamwork.
More than 60 teams participated in this year’s event held at the McLeod Center at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls, with teams from across the Midwest, and Turkey and Brazil. Teams of 10-40 students have just six weeks to learn the rules, design, build and test their robots.
“FIRST's vision of a world ‘where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders’ is a natural match with the University of Northern Iowa's STEM initiatives,” said Marcy Seavey, FRC planning team member and UNI host for the event. “These students put in hundreds of hours working on their robots, on raising funds and developing problem solving and leadership skills - the types of skills that make for successful students and STEM professionals. UNI STEM is currently administering the Iowa FRC Scale-Up to broaden participation throughout the state, and we support younger student's participation in STEM activities through hosting FIRST Lego League teams on campus, providing STEM camps and other outreach events aimed at providing local students with a broad set of experiences in STEM so that each student can discover their own passions and capabilities.”
The STEM Council has been involved with FIRST dating back to 2012, when the FIRST LEGO League was part of the STEM Scale-Up Program menu. Since then, FIRST Tech Challenge was a Scale-Up Program in 2012-13, 2014-15 and 2015-16. The FIRST Robotics Competition was on the Scale-Up Program menu in 2016-17 and is currently on the 2017-18 STEM Scale-Up Program.